Treadstone made Jason Bourne an unstoppable force, but he's not the only one.
Operation Treadstone has nearly ruined Adam Hayes. The top-secret CIA Black Ops program trained him to be an all but invincible assassin, but it also cost him his family and any chance at a normal life. Which is why he was determined to get out. Working as a carpenter in rural Washington state, Adam thinks he has left Treadstone in the past, until he receives a mysterious email from a former colleague, and soon after is attacked by an unknown hit team at his job site.
Adam must regain the skills that Treadstone taught himlightning reflexes and a cold consciencein order to discover who the would-be killers are and why they have come after him now. Are his pursuers enemies from a long-ago mission? Rival intelligence agents? Or, perhaps, forces inside Treadstone? His search will unearth secrets in the highest levels of government and pull him back into the shadowy world he worked so hard to forget.
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La Conner, Washington
Adam Hayes was lying in the center of the bed when the nightmare came. The tremor started at the edge of his lips, a ripple that twisted into a feral snarl. He started to sweat, hands tearing at the sheets, eyes pinballing behind closed lids, mind trapped in the horrors of the past.
He waited in the shadows, eyes closed, ears straining for the sound of his approaching prey. Kill them all-that was the order. He was just the instrument-a man conditioned to kill without hesitation. His hand closed around the hilt of the knife at the small of his back. The metal hilt felt cold through the latex gloves. The blade came free with the hiss of steel on leather and Hayes opened his eyes; the sentry's face was green in the night vision.
Now, the voice told him, and he struck.
Hayes's hand snaked under the pillow and his fingers closed around the reassuring steel of the Springfield 9-millimeter EMP. He rolled off the bed and dropped into a crouch, the hardwood cold as a corpse on his bare knees. Muscle memory had taken over, and his hands worked independently of thought. The snap of the pistol onto the target and the flick of the thumb disengaging the safety came unbidden.
It was only when his index finger curled around the trigger, compressing the spring until all it would take was a whisper of pressure for the gun to fire, that Hayes became conscious of the moment.
Then the nightmare evaporated.
Hayes blinked the world back into focus, his eyes falling to the outstretched pistol, sights centered on the shirt hanging on the back of the door. Jesus Christ.
He let go of the trigger and snicked the safety into place. The realization that he'd come within a hairsbreadth of sending a 9-millimeter hollow-point through the door made him sick to his stomach.
It was 5:05 in the morning and the nightmares were getting worse.
When he trusted his legs to hold him, Hayes grunted to his feet, placed the pistol on the bedside table, and padded across the hardwood to the bathroom. He palmed the wall switch and the overhead lights flashed to life, revealing the mass of scars that crisscrossed his bare torso like lines on a topographic map.
He stopped at the sink, plucked the orange pill bottle from the open medicine cabinet, and twisted the cap free. He shook a dose into his hand. The oblong pill in his callused palm reminded him of the last appointment with the shrink in Tacoma.
"What about the nightmares?" she asked, over the scratch of her pen across the paper.
"Haven't had one in months."
"Adam, you are making wonderful progress," she said, tearing the sheet from the prescription pad, "but."
There's always a but.
"But there will be setbacks."
He felt the anger stir in his gut, like a wolf waking in its den. Three nightmares in one week wasn't a setback; it was a fucking meltdown. He was pissed. Mad that he'd listened to her-let himself believe that he'd made progress.
That he could be normal.
"No," he said aloud. "That's not who I am anymore."
He took a breath, placed the pill in his mouth, and gently closed the door. He took a drink of water from the sink, and when Hayes looked up, his eyes lighted on the sheet of construction paper taped to the glass. The stick-figure family holding hands beneath a lemon-yellow sun.
Hayes brushed his finger over the "I love my Daddy" scrawled in crayon, a sad smile stretching across his face.
In the shower, he twisted the cold-water knob all the way to the left and ducked under the showerhead. The water came out of the pipe ice-cold and hit his flesh with the sting of a bullwhip. His mind recoiled, muscles tensed like hawsers beneath his skin, forcing the air from his lungs, but Hayes stood fast and waited for the question that had greeted him every morning for the past eighteen months.
How did I get here?
The first time Hayes heard about Treadstone, he was in Afghanistan. Three months into a six-month tour and he'd already lost two men. That's when things started to go sideways. Lines that had been black and white started looking gray. Hayes wasn't sleeping, but he had it under control-or that's what he told himself.
Then he was called to Colonel Patten's hooch. Hayes found his boss sitting at his plywood desk, his skin an ashen gray, eyes red from the Afghani sand that seeped into every crack.
"Have a seat, Captain Hayes."
He lowered himself into the chair and listened to the echo of the helicopters coming up the valley. It was his third tour to the 'Stan and Hayes could recognize the helos by the sound. This was a Chinook; he could tell by the thump thump of the rotors.
Can't be resupply, they were just here, he thought. It's too dangerous to send random helicopters into the valley.
"I'm sending you to Bagram," Patten said, guessing his thoughts.
"For what reason, sir?"
The colonel spit a line of tobacco into the stained foam cup on his desk and leaned back in his chair. "The men are starting to talk."
"That's what soldiers do."
"The boss is worried, Adam. We all are. They are sending someone from the States, some kind of doctor who is going to check you out."
"A psych eval, are you serious?"
"Look, I don't like this any more than you do, but this came from the top. Just get on the bird and go answer the man's questions. Think of it like a break. This guy will get you squared away and you'll be back on the wall tomorrow."
It was a lie, but Hayes didn't know it at the time.
After the shower, he toweled off and dressed in a pair of worn Carhartts and a fleece button-down over a black T-shirt. He stomped his feet into a pair of worn Ariat Ropers, tucked the holstered Springfield into his pants, and walked to the kitchen.
Breakfast was a pair of fried eggs, two pieces of wheat toast, and what was left of the steak he'd grilled for dinner last night. By the time he finished eating and carried his coffee out to the deck, most of the fishing boats were out on the water and first light was spreading across the horizon like a fresh bruise.
Treadstone was a double-edged sword, one he thought would allow him to make a difference. He didn't mind the pain that came with the behavior modification and the genetic reprogramming. Hayes could handle that-he could handle anything they threw at him.
It was what happened after that he couldn't handle. Which was why he was in Washington, and his wife, Annabelle, and their two-year-old son, Jack, were living halfway across the country.
Adam . . . promise you won't try to find us.
The sound of the shop phone snapped him from the memory, and Hayes tossed the dregs of his coffee off the side of the deck and followed the sound to the red barn at the rear of the cabin.
Who the hell is calling this early? he wondered, punching his code into the lock. By the time he got the door open and flipped on the lights the machine had picked up.
"You've reached Sterling Construction, please leave your message at the beep."
"Adam, it's Sally Colvin, I need you to call me-"
Hayes snatched the phone off the cradle and killed the recording with a jab of his finger.
"Sally, I'm here," he said.
"Adam, hey, I . . ."
Sally Colvin was the realtor he'd hired to sell the Smith house, which the project that had kept Hayes sane during his eighteen-month self-imposed exile.
It was also his nest egg. His last chance to show Annabelle that he could build just as well as he could destroy. And the money from the sale was going to allow him to stop fixing other people's houses and work on repairing his broken marriage.
There was something in her voice that struck a chord. What is it? Hayes wondered before asking aloud, "Sally, is everything okay?"
"Yeah, uh . . . I . . . I've got a motivated buyer who is interested in the house."
Again, the hesitation in her voice.
"That's great, right?"
"Well, I told him it was move-in ready," she said.
"I don't see why that's a problem," Hayes said, not understanding the panic in her voice. "All we have left to do is the flooring in the kitchen."
"Because he just called from the air. He is flying in today at noon."
Great, he thought, eyes dropping to his suitcase on the floor, the ticket to Florida peeking out of the side pocket.
Annabelle had agreed to let him see Jack this weekend. It was all supervised, of course, since she still didn't trust him alone with his son, but Hayes would take what he could get.
"Sally, I can't. I'm flying out at-"
"Adam, this is everything you have been working for," she said, the sudden passion in her voice catching him off guard. "My hardwood guys promise that they will be there at ten-fifteen. All I need you to do is lay the subfloor."
Hayes cast a longing look at the bag, then to the clock on the wall. It was a quarter to six. If he left now and worked fast, he could still make the flight.
"I can make it work," he said.
Hayes loaded the compressor and the rest of his tools in the back of the '66 Chevy Suburban, punched the garage door opener, and eased the truck down the gravel drive.
He turned onto the costal road, followed it down the hill and over the suspension bridge that connected the mainland from Cliffside Island. At the end of the street, bookended between two massive pines, lay Cliffside Manor.
The manor was the brainchild of Amy Harris, a local heiress who'd taken the lonely island and turned it into an enclave for the nouveau riche. The only reason Hayes was allowed on the property was due to the fact that he'd bought the Smith house in a short sale.
Hayes slowed at the gate. The squeal of the Suburban's brakes and the amused smile of the guard who stepped out of the shack reminded him that he didn't belong.
"Thought you were off today," the man said, looking down at the clipboard.
"Sally called, said she had a buyer flying down to look at the Smith house."
"No one told me."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Go on up, I'll get this sorted out," the guard said.
Hayes nodded and rolled through the gate, taking his first left onto Eyrie Drive. The stately homes with their emerald-green lawns and dazzling white picket fences reminded him of a scene from a John Hughes film. Even the pair of Jehovah's Witnesses talking to the couple outside of the tennis courts seemed right.
He followed the road around the corner, and there, perched atop the cliff at the end of the street, was the Smith house.
The first time he saw the two-story Cape Cod, it was on the verge of being condemned. The roof leaked, the eaves sagged, and all of the exterior wood was rotten. And that was just the view from outside. When he'd met the realtor selling the property, she had looked at him like he was crazy. "Full disclosure, there isn't another contractor in the area who would take this project. You sure about this?"
He'd never taken on an entire house and knew it was a daunting task. But there was something about it that wouldn't let him go.
"Absolutely," he'd told her.
Hayes backed the Suburban up the drive and parked next to the pallet of plywood and rolls of plastic. He grabbed his tools from the back, bumped the cottage gate open with his hip, and followed the brick path to the sliding glass door at the rear of the house.
The door rolled open with a screech and Hayes stepped inside. Need to oil that, he thought, setting his tools on the bare concrete pad before heading back out for the plastic sheeting and tar paper.
Hayes set the Springfield on the counter next to the sink, plugged in the radio, and got to work stapling the plastic across the doorways so he wouldn't dirty the rest of the house. He covered the floor with a layer of Visqueen and tar paper and turned on the air compressor before going outside for the plywood.
He carried the first sheet of plywood to the corner, made sure that it was flush with the wall, and used concrete nails to secure it to the slab. There was something therapeutic about working with his hands. Something about hard work and attention to detail that let him shut off his mind. Forget about his problems.
Hayes settled into a routine and had half of the subfloor laid down when there was a knock at the front door. He left the air hammer on the ground, hoping it was the flooring crew here early.
"Hold on," he said, getting to his feet.
Thump, thump, thump.
He brushed his hands on his pants and peeled back the corner of the plastic sheeting. It was a straight shot from the kitchen to the front door, but instead of the flooring crew, Hayes saw one of the Jehovah's Witnesses from the street standing at the door. The man offered him a smile and a wave.
"Let me turn off the radio," he said, ducking back into the kitchen, missing the second missionary sneak past the kitchen window, a suppressed H&K MP7 held at the high ready.
Thump, thump, thump.
"Damn, dude, isn't patience one of y'all's virtues?" Hayes grumbled.
He had just stepped out of the kitchen when the squeal of the back door being pulled open triggered the instinctual part of his brain.
Get down, the voice in his head ordered.
Hayes dropped to the floor a heartbeat before the suppressed thwaaaaaaaaap of a submachine gun on full auto opened up behind him.
La Conner, Washington
The bullets tore through the plastic sheeting and hit the wall, spraying Hayes with chunks of drywall and masonry dust. He was caught in the open and crawling toward the living room when the second Jehovah's Witness booted the front door.
Hayes ducked into the living room and reached for the pistol on his hip. But instead of the reassuring steel of the 9-millimeter Springfield, his hand closed around thin air.
"Bang out," the man yelled in Spanish.